Alcoholism is a serious disease. It affects all aspects of your life and can cause very severe consequences to your health, relationships, finances, and more. Before you get to the point of being an alcoholic, take a good look at yourself and try to determine if alcohol is really a problem in your life. If you can recognize it early on, you can take steps to change the course you are on.
Abuse vs. Dependence
First, it is important to understand that there is a difference between being an alcoholic and being someone who abuses alcohol. Alcoholism is:
- Being dependent on alcohol
- Experiencing a growing tolerance to drinking
- Withdrawal symptoms when you haven’t had a drink
- Trying to quit drinking and can’t
If you abuse alcohol, you are not an alcoholic, but you are on the path and at risk of developing a dependence. Abuse means that alcohol is beginning to interfere with your life. But, how do you recognize that?
Recognizing the Signs of Alcohol Abuse
Seeing abuse in oneself is not easy. Most people either ignore or genuinely cannot see the signs of drinking too much in themselves. The fact that you are asking the question is a good sign. It means you are aware of your actions and have the desire to change negative behaviors. Here are some ways you can recognize the bad affects that alcohol is having on your life:
Listen to others
Your friends and family and other people who are around you often can see much more than you can see yourself. If people who care about you are voicing concern about your drinking, keeping you away from bars or parties, or in other ways trying to curb your drinking, it’s time to listen. It is always easier to see faults in others than in oneself.
Drinking to self-medicate
Think about when you drink and why you choose to do so. Is it related to emotions? Do you drink to feel better when you’re down? Do you drink to avoid feeling negative emotions? If so, you are self-medicating. This means that you are drinking based on your emotions and that is never a healthy behavior. Drinking emotionally, as with eating emotionally, can lead to addiction and dependence. Your emotional well-being should never be based on a substance that alters your mood unless it is a prescription being taken under the advisement of a doctor.
If alcohol in anyway interferes with your health, it is interfering with your life. Of course, you may not be able to tell yet what affects your drinking is having on your health. Many of the more serious consequences of drinking don’t show up until later in life. But, there are the immediate effects as well. If you are waking up with a hangover, that is a headache, nausea, and upset stomach, then alcohol is interfering with your well-being, and therefore, your life. A hangover, if you are drinking responsibly, is something you should experience rarely if at all.
Alcohol is interfering with your life if it affects your work. If a night of drinking has ever kept you from going to work the next day, it is interfering with your life. If drinking at a work event has caused you embarrassment with your coworkers or has had other effects on your relationships or your standing at work, you are not using alcohol responsibly.
When your drinking affects your relationships with others, it is interfering with your life. This could include neglecting your children, spouse, friends, or other family members so that you can drink. If you are not meeting your responsibilities when it comes to your friends and family because of drinking, you have a problem.
Other Signs of a Problem
There are many ways in which drinking can interfere with your life. And as soon as you recognize that it is, you will know that you have a problem or the beginnings of a problem. Other signs that you are not drinking responsibly are similarly difficult to recognize in yourself unless you are very aware. These can include thinking often about drinking, trying to stop drinking, but being unable to do so, feeling ashamed about your drinking or feeling guilty and embarrassed afterward, being unable to remember what happened while you were drinking, or often drinking more than you intended to. When you recognize any of the signs that you are abusing alcohol and that it is interfering with your life, it is time to take action. You are not yet an alcoholic, but you are traveling a dangerous path. Taking steps now to stem your drinking can have enormously positive consequences in all areas of your life.